A little-known congressional power could help the federal government keep the Somali pirates in check — and possibly do it for a discount price.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and a growing number of national security experts are calling on Congress to consider using letters of marque and reprisal, a power written into the Constitution that allows the United States to hire private citizens to keep international waters safe.
Used heavily during the Revolution and the War of 1812, letters of marque serve as official warrants from the government, allowing privateers to seize or destroy enemies, their loot and their vessels in exchange for bounty money.
The letters also require would-be thrill seekers to post a bond promising to abide by international rules of war.
In a YouTube video earlier this week, Paul suggested lawmakers consider issuing letters, which could relieve American naval ships from being the nation’s primary pirate responders — a free-market solution to make the high seas safer for cargo ships.
“I think if every potential pirate knew this would be the case, they would have second thoughts because they could probably be blown out of the water rather easily if those were the conditions,” Paul said.
Theoretically, hiring bounty hunters would also be a cheaper option.
“If we have 100 American wanna-be Rambos patrolling the seas, it’s probably a good way of getting the job done,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow and security expert Eli Lehrer. “Right now we have a Navy designed mostly to fight other navies. The weapons we have are all excellent, but they may not be the best ones to fight these kinds of pirates. The only cost under letters of marque would be some sort of bounty for the pirates.”
NEW YORK (AFP) – Critics of President Barack Obama marked national tax day Wednesday with “tea party” protests that Republicans are calling the birth of a grassroots opposition, but Democrats dismiss as a fraud.
Initially small crowds gathered under blustery skies in Washington, New York and Boston to protest taxes, government bailouts, and Obama’s big-spending budget proposals.
Organizer Eric Odom said protests would take place across almost 800 cities in a “new day for the freedom movement.”
The demonstrations, styled on the famed 1773 Boston Tea Partyrevolt against British colonial taxes, came as Americans rushed to meet the annual deadline for filing income tax returns.
Protests featured teabags, iced tea and other tea-related props, complete with a planned re-enactment of the original dumping of tea into Boston harbor.
But despite the catchy theme, there were questions about whether the scattered, mostly Republican forces would be able to make an impact, let alone achieve the six-figure turnout predicted by Odom.
For now, Obama’s far-reaching economic policies, including a 787-billion-dollar anti-recession stimulus package, have broad support.
A USA Today/Gallup published Wednesday found a majority of Americans favor Obama’s expansion of the government’s role in the economy, at least for now.
In Washington, up to 1,000 people gathered mid-morning near the White House with placards including “Stop Big Government” and “Taxation is Piracy.”
“My money is disappearing,” said one protester, Marilyn Henretty 70, a retiree. “We are tired of being taxed without representation.”
OMBASA, Kenya – A pirate gang that launched an abortive attack on a second U.S. ship loaded with food aid said Wednesday they were singling out American vessels and would kill their crews, while French forces detained 11 other hijackers in a high-seas raid.
Pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at the Liberty Sun, but its American crew successfully blockaded themselves inside the engine room. The ship was damaged in Tuesday’s attack but escaped and was heading to Kenya under U.S. Navy guard.
A pirate whose gang attacked the aid ship admitted Wednesday that his group was targeting American ships and sailors.
“We will seek out the Americans and if we capture them we will slaughter them,” said a 25-year-old pirate based in the Somali port ofHarardhere who gave only his first name, Ismail.
“We will target their ships because we know their flags. Last night, an American-flagged ship escaped us by a whisker. We have showered them with rocket-propelled grenades,” boasted Ismail, who did not take part in the attack on the Liberty Sun.
The move comes after U.S. Navy sharpshooters killed three pirates Sunday to win the release of a hijacked American sea captain, Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama.
The French forces, meanwhile, launched an early morning attack on a pirate ship after spotting it Tuesday with a surveillance helicopter and observing the pirates overnight. The raid thwarted the bandits’ planned attack on the Liberian cargo ship Safmarine Asia, the French Defense Ministry said.
The statement called the pirate vessel a “mother ship” — usually a seized foreign ship that pirates use to transport speedboats far out to sea and resupply them. The ship was intercepted 550 miles (900 kilometers) east of the Kenyan city of Mombasa.
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